The route we take is familiar to us by now. We drive along the crest of a hill that gives us a view of cornfields and stands of pine trees. We drive past farms with silos and red barns. We drive though little towns where the gas stations sell both firewood and ice. And last, we take the long road that curves up through the woods, higher and higher, until we come to the edge of the sheep fields and the big monastery barn, with its white cross, comes into sight.
I’ve been going to this Benedictine monastery on retreat for a couple of decades now. As soon as I step out of the car, I can feel myself relax.
My friends and I stayed in the old farmhouse that serves as the women’s guesthouse. I took the bedroom at the top of the stairs, the one with the big wooden desk. I do love to spread my journals and books out on a desk. I hung my clothes in the closet, set my camera on the bookshelf, and then went down into the kitchen for a cup of tea.
A monastic retreat gives me time to think, to pray, to meditate. I took a long walk Saturday morning, going to all my favourite places: the sheep barn, the pasture behind the sheep barn, the bookstore, and the crypt below the chapel where the votive candles are. I spent a lazy afternoon in my cozy room, writing.
Compline is the last service of the day. The monks wear their black robes for this service, and Brother Tractor plays the harp in the candlelit chapel. After compline, my friends and I gathered in the living room of the guesthouse, and I built a fire. The crackling flames kept us company as we chatted, catching up with family news, drinking hot tea. When the fire died down, I said good night to my friends, heated a cornbag up in the microwave, and went up to bed. I fell asleep listening to the winds blowing through the tree outside my window.>